I have always wanted to visit a city with canals. It was a dream, which became a reality when I touched down at the Amsterdam Schripol Airport very early at 6:10 am on the 12th November, 2011. I have booked this flights several months in advance with Malaysia Airlines. My partner and I left Melbourne International Airport on 11.11.11. The flight took us via Kuala Lumpur where we had to transit there for 3 hours. We spent our time resting at the airport Premium Lounge that came with hot food, drinks, shower, wifi and even a 15 minutes relaxation shoulder massage.
It was cold on arrival at the Schripol airport with a temperature of 4 degree Celsius. The pilot announced that it will be a nice sunny day.
Amsterdam is the largest and capital city of Netherlands. It has a city population of two-thirds of a million in the city, with 2.1 millions in the greater metropolitan. It is one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe, with more than 50 percent of the tourists coming from other parts of Europe, followed by the Americans. I was told that it is low peak season in November. I was expecting the place to be semi-quiet and peaceful. I was wrong. It was very busy and packed with people everywhere. So, I imagine what it will be like when it is high tourist season. I then found out that the reason it was busy was because it was the weekend. A lot of tourists from other parts of Europe come here in the weekend.
We caught the train to Amsterdam Central Station. At €4.20 one way it is the cheapest and fastest way of getting into the city. It was so early that when we got into the train, we were the only passengers in the carriage. We arrived at Central Station in ten minutes. It was quiet. Too early. Most people still in bed. And, it was a Saturday.
We walked to the hotel which I have booked a few months ago. I googled several hotels in different areas in the city. I read other reviewers comments and feedback in other travel blogs and travel websites. I will definitely not stay in Damrak, near Central station. It will be noisy. And, definitely not in the Red Light District, where prostitution and “coffee shops” are in abundance. I chose the area near Negen Straatjes, along Singel canal, which is the oldest and inner most canal.
The hotel, “Hotel Estherea, is a small boutique hotel overlooking the canal. It was a twenty minutes walk from Central Station.
We arrived at the hotel. It was exactly as what the other travelers have said. Some time I have to lower my expectation and not take everything that was written by other travelers as accurate. We all have our own tastes and expectations. But, I was not disappointed. My first impression was the location was spot on. The hotel was charming with nice colourful decor, polished wooden furnitures, wallpapers and chandeliers, with a small indoor garden and fish pond. There are three separate large living rooms for guests to use. The service at Front Desk was friendly and warm. The room was beautiful and spotless, with a fantastic outlook of the canal.
I have booked the more expensive room overlooking the canal, with a shower over a bath. At €444 for two nights, it comes with complimentary breakfast and wifi if you join as “Friends of Estherea” on the hotel official website. I am glad I did it, with that extra bit of Euros. It is the best way of enjoying our stay in Amsterdam.
We had our first breakfast on Day 2 in Amsterdam. Good selection of bread, cold cuts, fruits, pastries, juices, omelette, sausages and bacons.
Amsterdam is an interesting city. This is the first time my partner has been to Europe. For me, I have been to Rome and worked in London many years ago. The city is compact and easy to get around. The first time we walked around with a street map. I found it easier to walk and explore the city without a map. It is more interesting to discover little interesting shops in alleys and many smaller streets, and along the different canals.
There are lots of cyclists in Amsterdam. It is amazing to see the cyclists weaving along the streets and not clashing into the pedestrians. I have seen more cyclists than cars or motorbikes since I have arrived. There are so many bicycles that it reminded me of my trip to Beijing more than ten years ago.
Everyone we have met in Amsterdam – retail shops and restaurants, were friendly and speak English. Tomorrow, we will be taking the train to Paris on our second leg of one week holiday in Europe. We have been told the French are not as friendly, and that if you don’t speak a bit of French, they will not be as hospitable. We will be in for a challenge.